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Published May 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Pens have an explosive past

Duane Tougas has built pens for nearly six years, but his newest models make the biggest bang.

By: Dave Roepke, INFORUM

Duane Tougas has built pens for nearly six years, but his newest models make the biggest bang.

Thankfully the bang isn’t literal. His top-selling pen is made out of bullet shells.

Tougas, a 54-year-old Fargo man, had assembled pens mostly from exotic woods before late last year, when he stumbled onto a rifle-shell design in a crafting magazine.

“It just kind of happened,” Tougas said.

The bullet pens, which are constructed from both a .308 shell and a .30-06 and come in silver or gold, quickly began shooting out the door of his garage-turned-workshop. He’s already sold more than 200 and carries a case of the pens in his vehicle to avoid missing impromptu sales.

Other than a handful of gun-show booths, all of his advertising has been word of mouth.

“Marketing, I struggle with,” he said.

But the pens did steady business this winter and sales have grown during graduation season.

Carolyn Stenseth, a co-worker at Eide Bailly in Fargo, said she was drawn to the pens because of their novelty.

“It’s a conversation piece,” she said.

They are fairly easy to make, taking Tougas about 20 minutes. The nib, ink cartridge and other pen innards all come in a purchased kit. Either spent or unfired bullets can be used, though most of the pens have unfired ones.

The bullet pens rank as one of his least-intensive projects, especially when compared to his wooden goblets and the intricate miniature birdhouses that double as regular-sized mosquito houses.

“Some of it is for the challenge: Can you actually do it?” Tougas said of his trickier work. The pens are just meant to bring some variety to his crafting.

Tougas said based on his Internet sales, gun fans are especially smitten with the pen – Marines in particular. Stenseth said she bought a bullet pen for her nephew, an avid hunter.

Beyond the quirky factor,

Stenseth said she appreciates the attention to detail Tougas brings to the pens.

“He was like, ‘Oh, you can’t have that one, it’s got a little scratch on it,’ ” she said. “He’s very picky.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535